The narration's description of Dame Estelle Matsuko's... irritated reaction to being told, essentially, to stop regulating trade with the natives of the planet Medusa and performing customs inspections on incoming and outgoing cargo, as doing so upset the Corrupt Corporate Executives in charge of the trading cartels. Dame Estelle's response to these directives is awesome, yes, but the way that reaction is described is simply hilarious.
[Dame Estelle had] snapped the unlucky messenger's head off and sent him home with it under one arm and a detailed account of the nature and severity of recently discovered violations of Her Majesty's Medusan Protectorate's laws under the other. And, she'd told Honor with grim delight, she'd concluded her report with the observation that the discovery of those violations had been made possible solely by the "dedicated, professional, persistent, and outstandingly successful efforts, both in their own right and in association with the NPA" (that was a direct quote) of Commander Honor Harrington and the crew of HMS Fearless. Under the circumstances, Dame Estelle had added, she had no intention of striving to abate Commander Harrington's activities and every intention of aiding and abetting them in any way she could. And if Her Majesty's Government disapproved of her intentions, she would, of course, submit her resignation.
After Harrington takes out the impeller nodes of the Havenite courier boat by violating its drive safety perimeter with her own, and its commander coms her to protest:
Courier Boat Commander: Captain Harrington, I protest your reckless, illegal shiphandling! You almost destroyed my ship! Our entire after— Captain Harrington: I'm very sorry, Captain. I'm afraid I wasn't watching where I was going. Courier Boat Commander:Weren't watching wh—?!
The Honor of the Queen
Allison Harrington is a barrel of laughs, essentially a Pretty Lech. For instance, the first time we meet her, upon meeting Honor's new executive officer, she tells Honor how gorgeous the guy is. And how Honor needs to tap that, pronto. Fittingly, her treecat name is Laugh Dancer.
Some responses to idiocy transcend millennia, as Sir Anthony Langtry proves. His response to Reginald Houseman's spectacularly uninformed attempt at diplomacy? Why, nothing other than the time-honored Face Palm.
The Short Victorious War
The scene where Honor is floating in a pool, and Nimitz starts bombing her with tennis balls. Her warning "Throw it and you're bedroom shoes!" and subsequent retaliation (treecats like water about as much as do the Earth felines for which they're named), is a fun little lighthearted moment. Especially given what happens later. (This leads to a Brick Joke a dozen books later when Honor's best friend Mike Henke is shown to have been given fluffy slippers by Honor — slippers styled to look like purple treecats.)
When Honor Harrington asks her old friend Michelle Henke for help with makeup:
Mike: Our coloring is just a bit different, you know.note Honor Harrington is of European and Asian descent and quite pale, while Mike — whose family is descended from Africans — is very dark. Honor: Does that matter? Mike: [mental facepalm]
When a pair of Peep battlecruiser divisions assigned to ambush a light cruiser accidentally run into a Mantie dreadnought, an inverted Description Cut occurs as the narration jumps from the Mantie bridge — where we see the watch officer (a communications officer, and self-admitted tactical ignoramus) nervously running down a checklist, culminating in an order for the ship to swing to port simply because the starboard sidewall came up first — to the Peep flag deck:
Admiral Pierre swallowed a groan as the dreadnought snapped around and her sidewall swatted his broadsides contemptuously aside. He'd never seen a ship that size maneuver so rapidly and confidently. She'd taken barely ten seconds to bring her sidewalls up and get around—her captain must have the instincts and reactions of a cat!
As it turns out, everybody ships Honor and Paul Tankersley. Including Honor's executive officer-slash-best friend. And the admiral for whom Honor is serving as flag captain!
Flag in Exile
During a period of political unrest in Harrington Steading in which a number of demonstrations had led to fighting in the streets, Honor tries to get her apparently-blind chief armsmaster to call in an alert about a group of men armed with large clubs entering a park. LaFollet, when he's done laughing, explains to his poor ignorant Manticoran boss that what she's seeing is a pickup baseball game. (On Manticore, the main team sport is The Beautiful Game.) It only gets funnier when, after LaFollet explains bats are used on the ball (not the players), the first idea that springs to Honor's mind is a demented variation on golf.
Honor Among Enemies
"Thank you for your cooperation and excellent response time, but this concludes our unscheduled exercise."
In Enemy Hands
Nimitz (he shows up a lot here, doesn't he?) keeping in hunting practice via counting coup. Poor chipmunk...
Of course he shows up a lot here. His name in the treecat language is Laughs Brightly.
The incredibly helpful description of the Sphinxian Chipmunk given by the narration is worth a mention: It has six legs (like most fauna from Sphinx), and looks nothing like a Terran chipmunk. This sort of disconnect between something's name and its Terran analog would eventually turn into one of the franchise's Running Gags.
Andrew LaFollet trying to coax Jason the treekitten out from under shuttle seats. He's way too big to fit. Jason is enjoying the game, LaFollet is wordlessly daring anyone to say one word, and Honor is stifling a highly-inappropriate giggle fit.
Echoes of Honor
Nimitz's telepathic picture show showing treecat-Honor (a brown-eyed treecat, wearing an eyepatch, a naval beret, and Commodore's shoulderboards) chasing down a chipmunk with a face patterned after a particularly obstructive admiral. It makes Honor laugh uproariously, and then chide him for his low sense of humor.
Some of the delicious banter between members of Honor's crew:
When they're scanning the jungle canopy trying to find Camp Inferno:
Harkness: 'Scuse me, Mr. Tremaine, but I think I see something. Tremaine: And where would that happen to be, Chief? You really ought to be a bit more precise in making these minor sighting reports, you know. Harkness [earnestly]: Yes, Sir. Sorry 'bout that, Sir. Guess I'm just getting old, Sir. I'll try not to let it happen again, Sir. Maybe next time I can find you a younger, fitter flight engineer, Sir. And then— Tremaine: And then you can tell me where you saw whatever you saw before I come back there and have Master Chief Ascher take care of you for me, Chief!
In Camp Charon, Honor is discussing Admiral Styles with McKeon when Solomon Marchant interrupts:
Honor: Yes, Solomon? Marchant: I'm sorry to burst in on you like this, My Lady, but Senior Chief Harkness and I just cracked another security code, and I thought you'd want to know what we found. Honor: [dryly] No doubt you're right.
For anybody British, Honor's mental reference to an M&S (maintenance & service) depot for skinsuits.
Ashes of Victory
An advisor informs Queen Elizabeth of an urgent matter which demands her attention - presumably, more important than the card game she is losing against the Prince Consort and the Crown Prince (read: her husband and son). The Royal Family proceeds to engage in a light-hearted session of tinfoil hattery, accusing each other of devious machinations and high treason, all over a Pinochle game.
While everyone in both the Star Kingdom and on Grayson is quite glad to see Honor Harrington back from the dead, this doesn't stop them from preying upon her natural humility for their own amusement:
First, the decision is made to return her from Trevor's Star to Grayson aboard the senior Grayson ship present... which, besides being the perfectly logical choice, allows Admiral White Haven, Captain Greentree, Admiral Yanakov, and the rest to enjoy watching her reaction when she discovers that the superdreadnought she just boarded is the GNS Honor Harrington.
Second, when she returns to Steadholders' Hall to find a four meter tall bronze statue of herself atop an eight meter polished column right in front of the main entrance — a statue which they not merely refuse to take down upon her return to life, but whose recasting is fully covered by the insurance should any desperately-mortified steadholder order her armsmen to demolish it one dark night.
Michelle Henke's succinct evaluation of Honor's plan to escape from Hades, which required everything to go right and only worked via a massive stroke of luck, in Ashes of Victory:
Henke: All things considered, Her Grace's plan may not have been the single rashest, most foolhardy, do-or-die, all-or-nothing throw of the dice in the history of the Royal Manticoran —- or Grayson -— Navy. If it wasn't, however, I have so far failed to find the plan that was.
Sometimes the narration comes up with lines that are just downright hilarious. Case in point, after the first truly successful military operation in nearly three years:
Narrator: Hamish Alexander stood on Benjamin the Great's flag deck with his hands clasped behind him and tried very hard not to feel a sense of godlike power.
Ties in with CMoA, but in Ashes of Victory, the discussion about the San Martin government. San Martin had recently been liberated, and was having massive difficulty electing a new leader. After two years, with no progress, Commodore Jesus Ramirez, the officer who led the doomed last stand against the original Havenite invasion and the nephew of the last President of San Martin, returns. Every other candidate (except one, and even that one seems to be in it just to have an opposition) instantly drops out of the race. Ramirez wins with 86% of the vote.
Narrator: "Jesus was drafted, almost without being consulted..."
Honor's mother's inner musings on religious fanatics:
Nuts didn't need religion to make them nuts, Allison had long since decided, but it did seem to give them a certain added sense of commitment to whatever goals their nutdom decided to embrace.
War of Honor
The baseball tomfoolery that opens (well, opens with the main characters, anyway) War of Honor, in which Honor, who had never so much as heard of the sport until she saved a star system and got herself adopted by a planetful of Graysons, plays the role of "long-suffering old-time fan suffering the ignorance of newcomers" to the hilt as she introduces the sport to Michelle Henke. Capped off with a ridiculously funny exchange between Honor and Andrew LaFollet when she asks him to explain to Mike why baseball fans measure distances in feet instead of converting to meters:
LaFollet: Because this is baseball, my lady! Honor [smugly]: You see? There's a perfectly logical reason.
Similarly, Henke learning that the Harrington Steading team almost got named the Harrington Salamanders. Honor got it changed to the Harrington Treecats.
Henke: Somehow, the discovery that the founder of your religion was also a baseball fanatic doesn't really surprise me. LaFollet:: I wouldn't say Saint Austin was a fanatic about baseball, My Lady. "Fanatic" would probably be much too mild a term, from everything I've ever read.
At All Costs
Alfred and Allison Harrington in some scenes in At All Costs.
Alfred: I think someone needs a spanking. And not our daughter. Allison: Oooooh, promise?
Later on the same scene, Allison jokingly starts waxing poetic about her excellent qualities.
Alfred: (deadpan) "Definitely a spanking."
During the scouting for a Cutworm mission, the commander of the destroyer HMS Ambuscade converses with her tac officer:
Lt. Harcourt: I haven't picked up any grav-pulse transmissions. Anything they did get on us, aside from our footprint itself, has to be coming in light-speed. So whatever it might be, they won't have it for another twenty-five minutes or so. Lt Cdr Estwicke: By which time we'll have cut even the laser links and be very tiny needles in a very large haystack. Harcourt: Exactly, Skip. [cocking her head] By the way, Skipper, there's something I've always meant to ask. Estwicke: And what might that be? Harcourt: What the hell is a 'haystack,' anyway?
The literary version of a Funny Background Event, where, during some playful banter and conversation, Emily Alexander gives her husband Hamish (at this point, First Lord of the Admiralty and one of the highest ranking people in the Kingdom of Manticore) a Dope Slap.
Queen Elizabeth's reaction to Emily Alexander's tranquil admission that she and Hamish had married Honor.
Elizabeth: [nonchalantly] Oh, how my trust in all three of you has been betrayed! Woe and lamentations. And so forth.
The Exact Words way Admiral Tourville opens the briefing on Beatrice for his subordinates.
Tourville: I'm well aware of the sorts of rumors which have been circulating around the fleet. Some of them have been so wild as to be outright ridiculous. For example, the one that says we're going to launch a direct attack on the Manticoran home system in response to Lovat. The very idea is preposterous.
Mission of Honor
In Mission Of Honor, when Admiral Crandall arrives in Spindle, she waits for a while before opening communications, intending to make the Manticorans sweat. When she does hail them, instead of the terrified Manticoran officer she expects, she gets Gregor O'Shaughnessey, idly reading a novel at his station, not even noticing the Admiral at first. It's a wonder that Crandall doesn't suffer an apoplectic fit.
And, since she'd decided to insult the Manties by parking her ships far enough out that it takes eighteen minutes for a message to get to Spindle and back, he returns the insult by resuming reading his book between exchanges.
When Eloise Pritchart is trying to decide what to do about a pair of troublesome members of her own delegation she starts to fantasize about having Honor strangle them, noting that Harrington could probably do it without breaking a sweat, and afterward she could just give her a presidential pardon. Then she realizes, hey, Honor has diplomatic immunity anyway!
Honor herself fantasizes about the ex-La Résistance assassins in the Pritchart Administration — starting with Pritchart herself! — and wonders if they might be convinced to return to their old methods one last time...
Toward the end, a lowly ensign has the watch as Admiral Harrington's ship comes docking back in with her flagship, and he begins going through the usual motions. Only to stop as the Queen herself follows Honor out of the ship. Cue centuries (and a dozen books) worth of military tradition coming to a sudden, abrupt halt at the unexpected arrival. (Can be summed up as: military tradition encounters Queen Elizabeth, and loses.) Despite the gravity of the situation, it's easily the funniest thing in the book.
Naval protocol covers such occurrences just fine (a few more sideboys, basically), but the officer of the deck — not to mention his captain — would have appreciated a heads-up.
A Rising Thunder
One of the security measures Manticore takes in response to the Mesan threat is to pair up critical personnel with volunteer treecats to gain advance warning against stealth assassinations. Admiral Lester Tourville's assigned minder pointedly objects to his habit of lighting cigars at dramatic moments by sealing up his space suit as soon as a cigar is unwrapped.
In the same scene, Tourville is amused to note that the entire bridge crew, most of whom know him primarily by reputation, are poised in anticipation as he unwraps his cigar, because they know it means things are about to get serious.
Emily Alexander gives Honor a Dope Slap. While the two are exchanging snarky commentary on an episode of Into the Firenote a political talk program.
Meanwhile, back on Old Terra, a group of conspirators are poking around in one small part of the Navy Archives... which includes countless filing cabinets full of decades old paper documents, despite the distant-future setting. One of them, a Marine Intel officer, demands to know if the Navy ever throws anything out at all.
Another one of them, a Gendarmerie officer, has the basics of the plot the League finds itself in outlined for her, along with the request that she help investigate and find evidence of it...
Colonel Okiku: You are so going to get all of us killed.
Albrecht Detweiler, during his epic Oh Crap while Benjamin runs down just how badly recent developments have screwed them over, stops to point out that they actually weren't responsible for Arnold Giancola.
Benjamin: In fact, they're busy telling the Manty Parliament — and, I'm sure, the Havenite Congress and all the rest of the fucking galaxy! — all about the Mesan plan to conquer the known universe. In fact, you'll be astonished to know that Secretary of State Arnold Giancola was in the nefarious Alignment's pay when he deliberately maneuvered Haven back into shooting at the Manties! Albrecht: What? (blinks in surprise) We didn't have anything to do with that!
And then, just to top it all off, Albrecht sums up the situation with all the prose and eloquence one expects of a Chess Master such as himself:
Honor Harrington shoos the Republic of Haven's Secretary of War. Better yet, he obeys her.
Crown of Slaves
Michael Oversteegen unloads with both barrels on his cousin Deborah Fraser, the Ambassador to Erewhon. Despite the severity of the situation, his assessment of her (complete lack of) mental competence is rip-roaringly hilarious, not to mention a verbal double broadside that, if translated to actual missiles, would have Honor Harrington applauding.
Oversteegen: I will just take the opportunity t' tell you, since I don't believe I've ever done it before at one of our family gatherin's -— not precisely, I mean -— just how brainless you are, Deborah. Truly brainless. Not simply stupid. Bar-ain-less. As in: brains of a carrot.... I will remind you, Madam Ambassador, that as the senior naval officer in the system, I am obliged to 'coordinate' with you but am in no way under your authority. So, Deborah, consider us havin' 'coordinated' -— you are a cretin and I told you so -— and I will attend t' the Queen's business.
Michael Oversteegen has no patience for his cousin whatsoever:
Deborah: What is it, Captain Oversteegen? And I would appreciate it if you'd stick to the proper formalities. Oversteegen: Get screwed, Deborah.
Shadow of Saganami
When Midshipman Aikawa Kagiyama is standing watch after their return to Montana from Kornati and, figuring that the rating in CIC is probably as bored as he is, orders an analysis performed on a freighter that had just entered orbit ... which, by sheer coincidence, is the same one that delivered an enormous load of Solarian military arms and equipment to Kornati's terrorists.
Terekhov: Good work, Aikawa. Very good work. Kagiyama: Skipper, I wish I deserved the credit. But it was just one of those things. I can't even say I had 'a feeling,' because I sure as heck didn't!
When the diminutive Provisional Governor makes it very, very clear that Manticore will support the local governments who had requested annexation:
Queen Elizabeth III's reaction to the news of Terekhov's unauthorized adventures in Monica:
Elizabeth: What sort of raw meat do you people feed your cruiser captains, Hamish?
Storm From the Shadows
The entire sequence in which Joanna Agnelli, Commodore Terekhov's steward, and Helen Zilwicki, his flag lieutenant, have to wrangle him into mess dress. Just... the whole thing. He sounds like an eight-year-old boy reluctant to wear a suit, and is frustrated as all get-out by Agnelli and Helen silently invalidating every excuse he can find not to wear it. Three or four excuses in, he finally just gives up. Apparently taking on a bunch of modern Solarian battlecruisers with a ragtag squadron is just fine, but taking on two very determined women is a different story...
Michelle Henke gleefully trolling her flag lieutenant, Gwen Archer, about his blossoming relationship with Helga Boltitz.
..."I mean, I understand that you actually subjected yourselves to the hardship of dining at Sigourney's just so you could set up that 'dinner party' of mine." Her eyes radiated soulful gratitude as she gazed at him. "I do hope that we're not going to be forced to demand any equally painful sacrifices out of you this time around."
Shadow of Freedom
Michelle Henke's comment on the intelligence or lack thereof amongst the Solarian Navy's officer corps:
Michelle: You know, I’m beginning to wonder exactly what qualifications the Sollies look for in candidates for their naval academy. I mean there has to be a filtering process. You couldn’t just go out and pick middies at random and get such an invariably stupid crop of flag officers. There has to be some kind of system. If you just picked names out of a hat, for example, somebody would have to have a functional brain.
Augustus Khumalo and Estelle Matsuko have just been hit with yet another piece of unexpected news. So what else is there for them to do but to break out the snark?
Matsuko: Should I assume Lady Gold Peak sent a recommendation along with her report? Khumalo: She did, Madame Governor. Matsuko: And you're not going to tell me what it was unless I pull it out of you with a pair of pliers, right? Khumalo: A simple order to come clean will do, Madame Governor. Still, I have to admit I’m curious to see whether your response parallels hers.
Cauldron of Ghosts
In a case of Strange Minds Think Alike, while watching the expose on Victor Cachat, Thandi looks to Victor and thinks to herself "Buster you are so getting laid tonight." Elsewhere in the room, Zilwicki is noticing the extra attention he's getting from his lover Cathy and thinks to himself "I am so getting laid, tonight."
The naming of Torch's elite military force of the "Royal Mouser Corps.", which includes a debate on the heraldry and making sure the word 'corps.' is included to satisfy the soldiers' dignity, since they'll call themselves 'Royal Mousers' on their own anyway.
Berry needs to get to Manticore with pretty much her entire Cabinet. When it is pointed out that she has to leave someone behind to actually run the planet, she appoints her boyfriend Hugh to be in charge, despite his having no official place in the government. Evidently it causes something of a constitutional crisis.
Anton Zilwicki to Yana Tretiakovna:
You're still holding a grudge about the tits aren't you?note In reference to the Gag Boobs Yana had to adopt as per disguise on Mesa.
One minor character is suddenly recruited into the "Oh look Victor's improvising again!" club. The narration swings back a paragraph or two later to clarify: It is not a fan club.
Anton needs to leave Victor on Mesa so he can get to Manticore to summon reinforcements, he and Victor have a long meaningful moment between two men too stoic to express such emotions as they're feeling... and Yana goes ahead and hangs a lampshade on the Ho Yay between them and kisses Victor on Anton's behalf so it doesn't get weird.
In "Fanatic" from Service of the Sword. Victor Cachat has spent the last few months terrorizing, beating, and torturing the naval staff of a Havenite sector headquarters so that he could neutralize and dismantle the State Sec keeping an eye on them. This includes nearly beating the local commander and his Number Two to death, more than once. When Ginny Usher (Cachat's boss's wife and Cachat's Cool Big Sis) shows up, Victor tells her he's very tired and "just wants to leave." In what the narration describes as proof that there is no justice in the universe...
Ginny: Victor Cachat is the sweetest kid in the world! And you— You dirty rotten bastards! You were mean to him.
In "Obligated Service" from Beginnings, Ensign LeCroix has been micromanaging the equipment maintenance schedules for the ship's various departments. The Lieutenant she works for explains that she needs to back off and let the noncoms do the jobs they were trained for, and not to worry if the occasional piece of equipment breaks. One paragraph break later, it is mentioned that the machine which fabricates medication on the ship has broken just in time for the entire crew to come down with a nasty stomach bug, and the same Lieutenant takes a break from dry heaving to contact LeCroix and inform her that she is to micromanage the medic's equipment maintenance schedule to within an inch of his life from now on.
From the same story, the male crewmembers learn that the other female officer aboard, Ensign Rustin, routinely suffers menstrual cramps on par with the symptoms they temporarily suffered under due to the stomach bug, not that you'd ever know it from her incessantly cheerful attitude. She thus develops a reputation as a Memetic Badass amongst her male subordinates.
When LeCroix finds her career in trouble due to her immature family patriarch's shenanigans, her superiors briefly toy with the idea of exploiting an unintended intersection in Grayson laws to have her legally declared a Gentleman. She won't have any of it and finds another way.
In "Beauty and the Beast", also from Beginnings, Allison Chou, curious about new transfer student Alfred Harrington (most particularly, why her ex has taken such a hate-on for him), engineers a Crash into Hello with him so she can get to know him. She miscalculates just how fast Alfred is moving, and how much inertia he's carrying due to his Heavy Worlder status, and the petite woman is nearly sent tumbling ass over kettle by the resulting collision.